Much love xoxo
***** SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read Book One, do. :) If you have, read on!*****
CHAPTER NINETEEN : No Show
When Kaylee arrived, we invited her to join us. She sat at the table in front of a plate of untouched food, her hands folded in her lap, her shoulders and jaw tense. Her eyes moved nervously between me, Kai and my curious dove, his beady eyes raking over her every now and then.
Five silent minutes passed before she finally spoke. We wanted to give the illusion she was in control; she was in our territory now and had no door to hide behind, and so we’d waited for her to initiate a conversation.
“So what’s this all about?” she asked, her voice shaky and more childlike than before. “Who are you guys?”
I swallowed my last bite of potato and dabbed my napkin at the corners of my mouth. “I’m so glad you came tonight,” I said, smiling reassuringly. I didn’t like the way her gaze now trailed through the woods where she’d appeared from. Planning her escape if need be, I’m sure. “I’m Iris, and this-”
“He’s Kai… I remember,” she interrupted. “I meant why would you guys say I’m in danger? How would you know that?”
Wearing a more serious expression, I jumped right into what Kai and I had rehearsed. I had a feeling we only had a short window to convince her this visit was worth her time before she beelined back home. “We know, Kaylee, because Kai and I are in the same kind of danger. It’s why we live in the woods.”
Kai clasped my hand in a show of support. I still wasn’t sure about this part – Kai and I trying to both pass as hybrids. We looked older. But if they ever questioned it, we’d explain how we were the exception. Some of us don’t quit aging until later. I hoped they’d buy it.
“And the danger we’re all in has to do with what you are,” I continued. “What all of us are.”
Her features softened, the same look as before replacing her tense one – an internal struggle. Something aware and knowing, yet confused as to how we were in on it. That we knew.
We waited for her to speak again.
“You keep saying that,” she said, low and cautious. We were the only ones here, but I suspected it was out of instinct. Habit. Deep, hidden secrets require discretion. They needed to stay hidden. I knew this well. She whispered the last part. “What I am.”
“What do you think we mean by that?” Kai asked, but not in a challenging way. He was matching her air of caution, and I think it eased her.
“Well you… I’m guessing you mean…” Her lips pressed into a tight line. She didn’t want to say. It probably went against everything she knew to vocalize the truth, whether it be her heritage, if she knew, her immortality, if she knew, or her ‘gift,’ whatever it was.
“I assure you,” he cajoled. “There’s nothing you can tell us that we don’t already know.”
I nodded in agreement.
Guarded, she searched our eyes again. I hoped she saw sincerity behind them.
After moments of internal deliberation, I could practically see her defenses wavering – to tell us, or not to. She pressed her eyes shut, her shoulders relaxing with a long low breath.
I cheered internally. She was definitely cracking.
“I’m guessing you mean my gift.” Her words sounded like the reticent confession of a longtime sinner. She needed the reprieve, to say it aloud so someone else would know, but hated the sound of it as she did. “The reason I can…” She hesitated, then said, “Shape shift.” She immediately looked as though she’d swallowed something bitter, and I could tell she regretted telling us. This too, I’m sure, was out of instinct. Self-preservation. Nobody needed to know this. Being different, this different, in a world of mundane normalcy could mean bad things. I knew that well, too. As I’m sure gifted humans do, us conjurers hid our ’gifts’ from the ordinaries. It’s human nature to lash out at – and even be violent toward – things they don’t understand, and I’d never had the patience to deal with it.
“Yes… partially, dear,” I said proudly. “Your gift is a part of who you are. It’s what helps make you so unique.”
“But it’s more of a symptom,” Kai added. “You’re gifted because of a larger reason. Do you know what that might be?”
This took her off guard, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt she had no idea about her heritage, and therefore her immortality.
We had a long conversation ahead of us.